Several U.S. Marine base personnel test positive for coronavirus in Okinawa, Japan

Several personnel at a U.S. Marine base in southern Japan have tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting tighter restrictions for off-base activities, officials announced Thursday.

The Marine Corps Installations Pacific didn’t specify how many people at Camp Butler, located in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, were infected with COVID-19 and how many of them might be service members. But it said in a Facebook post that “the individuals that have tested positive have been moved into isolation.”

A shelter-in-place order was temporarily introduced for Camp Hansen, also in Okinawa, while contact tracing and cleaning efforts were launched.

“These measures are put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of our forces, families, and our Okinawa neighbors,” the statement said.

While the shelter-in-place order was lifted Friday morning, new limitations on off-base activities were implemented to curtail the further spread of the virus, Marine Forces Japan said in a statement.

The restrictions mean service personnel on the base can no longer use public transit, dine-in at off-base restaurants or visit places that aren’t deemed an essential service. Off-base schools and child care are listed as essential.

Personnel are allowed to leave the base for exercise and outdoor activities, but are required to follow social distancing measures.

The rise in cases comes just over a week after a family member of a Marine at Camp McTureous in Okinawa tested positive for the virus. The initial case was believed to be the result of recent travel to the U.S., the service said in a statement on July 1.

Marine Forces Japan said Friday that its operations have not been hindered by the social distancing and teleconferencing measures implemented in response to the public health crisis.

“We will maintain our proficiency and readiness in support of our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” the service said in a statement.

Japan has seen a spike in coronavirus cases this week after managing to keep the increase in new cases to double digits through much of May and June.

The nation’s health ministry on Friday reported the highest single-day increase in cases since April with 357 new infections, bringing the running total to 20,719. Nearly 1,000 people in the country have died.

The pandemic forced Japan in March to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics until 2021.

Matthew Mulligan and Arata Yamamoto contributed.

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